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Pro Tour Kaladesh: Day One Live Updates

Heading into Pro Tour Kaladesh, the Standard format is surprisingly up in the air. While everyone knows that Smuggler's Copter is one of the best cards in Standard, the week one dominance of RW Vehicles has diminished on Magic Online, leaving the format wide open to the point where people are asking with a straight faces if we could see Panharmonicon, Aetherflux Reservoir, or energy combo be major players. Well, the answers are finally starting to pour in with the first eight rounds of Pro Tour Kaladesh

Like with other Pro Tour reviews, I'm writing this article live, round-by-round, so things will probably be a bit looser than they would in other, more research-based articles. The good news is that Pro Tour Kaladesh is in Hawaii and not in Australia, so unlike last time, I'm at least somewhat coherent, rather than being hopped up on energy drinks and half asleep. Anyway, what we'll be doing tonight is going through each round of Pro Tour Kaladesh as they happen and talking not only about the individual cards that are impressing, but taking a stab at guessing some of the decks as well! So let's get to it!

Rounds 1 through 3 (Limited)

We're not going to spend too much time talking about the limited rounds of Pro Tour Kaladesh, but it is worth mentioning that the format has a very Kaladeshian flavor. Vehicles are everywhere, we've seen decks that need to use multiple dice to keep track of their energy, and Servo tokens are clogging up the board. According to LSV (now a full-time member of the coverage team, which is as amazing as it sounds), most pros agree that green is the best color in Kaladesh draft. Keep that in mind if you are playing on Magic Online or at your local game store. 

While we haven't seen too many between rounds segments yet, we did get Brian David Marshall visiting the Team East/West Bowl house. While we've seen segments like this before, one of the huge improvements is that there were some outdoors shots. We actually got to see palm trees and rolling waves! One things I've argued for a long time is that Magic coverage needs to embrace a sense of place. The inside of smelly convention halls all look the same, and typically this is all we see on coverage. If you look at other major sporting event, they all try to capture the essence of the city where the event is being held, and it really adds a lot of context to the event. Adding this to coverage is a huge deal and a major step in the right direction. Hopefully it continues in the future, at least for Pro Tour level events. 

Round 4

The constructed rounds of Pro Tour Kaladesh kick off with Martin Muller playing Temur Colossus against Shota Yasooka on Grixis Control. While both of these decks are somewhat known, probably the most interesting aspect of both decks is the splash color. In the past, the Metalwork Colossus decks was mostly blue and sometimes blue/black for Scrapheap Scrounger, while control has been blue/black or blue/white, but not Grixis.

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While Shota's deck is fairly off the wall with Thing in the Ice, Painful Truths and no real wrath effects, the main innovation from Muller's deck seems to be the inclusion of Deadlock Trap, which is a very underrated card in a format where energy is easy to accumulate and vehicles are everywhere. Being able to answer creatures, cars, and planeswalkers means Deadlock Trap has a flexibility that isn't present in any other Standard card. Another interesting addition is Inventors' Fair, which offers another way to search up Metalwork Colossus and get the Sanctum of Ugin chain started. Oh yeah, and Sylvan Scrying to find the powerful tutor lands. While the most surprising aspect of the match was the main deck Ceremonious Rejection from the Grixis Control build, what's unsurprising is that tapping out for 11-mana creatures is a tough sell against a deck that is overloaded with removal and even has its own beefed-up Snapcaster Mage. Shota ends up taking down a fairly easy three game match by leaving up counters for all of Muller's big plays. 

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One of the big questions heading into the weekend was whether the gearhulk cycle could really break out. While most of its members have seen scattered play through the first weeks of Kaladesh, none have really cemented their spot in a tier one archetype. Perhaps the most obvious candidate for a breakout is Torrential Gearhulk, which has a chance to be the premiere control finisher in the format. Unfortunately, it looks like some people have already made this bet, considering that the blue gearhulk has doubled in price in the last 24 hours. As for Metalwork Colossus, it's already $1.50 thanks to seeing some early play on the SCG Tour, and while a good Pro Tour Kaladesh showing could lead to a double up, it's going to be incredibly hard for an archetype staple rare to maintain any real value in a set containing Inventions and some powerful mythics. 

Meanwhile on the back tables, we find out that people are indeed playing Aetherwork Marvel. During the first game of the first constructed round of the Pro Tour, we have a turn four Emrakul, the Promise End! There's also plenty of Smuggler's Copters floating around, with both RW and Mardu Vehicles getting backup feature matches during round one. Anyway, here's some guestimate decklists. 

In between rounds, we get a Red-Green Pummeler deck tech from Willy Edel:

Round 5

At the start of Round 5, we get the day one metagame breakdown which is full of surprises. Let's look at the chart and then we'll break it down.

  • First off, it seems that Aetherworks Marvel is busted. While everyone was freaking out about Smuggler's Copter, it was the energy combo deck that came in as the most-played deck in the format. 
  • Speaking of energy combo, coming in third we have GR Energy, which is a combo deck in its own right,  being a Standard version of Infect looking to close out the game on turn four with a huge Electrostatic Pummeler. While the deck has been showing up a lot on Magic Online, coming in as the fourth most-played deck at the Pro Tour is a bit of a surprise. 
  • If you combine the two most popular Smuggler's Copter decks (BR Aggro and RW Vehicles) together, they would come in just behind Temur Aetherworks as the most-played deck in the format. So while the biggest week one decks of Kaladesh Standard might not be the biggest Pro Tour decks, Smuggler's Copter is still seeing a lot of play. 
  • Maybe the biggest surprise of the whole event is that there are very few new decks. Sure, there are some random one-ofs like Grixis Devoid, but it looks like most of the pro team decks are known, in some form or another. For the past few Pro Tours, we've had at least some major surprises; most of the decks from Pro Tour Kaladesh are pretty normal.

As for Round 5, we start on a UR mirror with Pierre Dagen on UR Spells and Raphael Levy on UR Emerge. While being just UR makes Levy's deck unique, it's pretty much the a typical graveyard emerge deck looking to abuse Elder Deep-Fiend, just using Advanced Stitchwing instead of Haunted Dead. On the other hand, the the UR Spells deck is pretty spicy, relying on only Dynavolt Tower and a single copy of Torrential Gearhulk to close out the game, while otherwise playing just a million spells between red burn and blue counters. In some ways, it's like the Fevered Visions decks that were popular this past season, although it appears to be more controlling, featuring more hard counters. 

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Dynavolt Tower is an interesting card, working almost like Metallurgic Summonings as a finisher in a spell heavy, creature-light deck. In conjunction with card filtering like Tormenting Voice and Anticipate, it's pretty easy to keep casting spells and turn Dynavolt Tower into an artifact that costs three-mana and taps to deal three damage. You really need to play a lot of spells to power it up, so it seems unlikely to have a ton of financial relevance, but the style of deck is enables is pretty unique and worth keeping an eye out for as Kaladesh Standard progresses. 

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On the backup feature match, we finally get to see what team ChannelFireball and the Pantheon are playing. ChannelFireball seems to be on a slightly more aggressive than usual build of GB Delirium featuring Smuggler's Copter, while the Pantheon are getting aggressive with what looks to be a fairly stock build of WR Vehicles. All things considered, there isn't really much new to see here: GB Delirium was one of the breakout decks at the last Pro Tour, and RW Vehicles was the format's boogeyman heading into the Pro Tour.

On the second backup feature match, we find another control deck. This time it's Jeskai, once again featuring Torrential Gearhulk, which is starting to look like an early winner out of the cards we've seen over the first two rounds. While we've seen spicy Kaladesh cards like Dynavolt Tower and Metalwork Colossus show up in specific decks, we've seen Torrential Gearhulk across the spectrum of colors. While most of these decks are controlling, we've seen Grixis, Jeksai and even the UR Spells deck all feature the gearhulk, while we haven't seen a single copy of any of the other members of the cycle. Anyway, here's some guesses for the decks this round:

And we get a spicy deck tech, featuring what's probably the best-named deck at the Pro Tour, Fevered Tesla Turbo Fog 4000:

Round 6

Round 6 starts with the handsomest man in Hearthstone (Brian Kibler) against Pat Cox in the battle of energy-based decks. Kibler is on a GR Energy aggro deck, but not the build that's looking to combo off with Electrostatic Pummeler, instead playing a more fair game featuring "good cards" like Tireless Tracker to support the energy package. Meanwhile, Cox is on the Temur Aetherworks deck that's trying to drop Emrakul, the Promised End or Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger on turn four off of Aetherworks Marvel. Game one ends with an Emrakul, the Promised End hitting the battlefield on turn five, causing Kibler to scoop up his cards at warp speed. In game two, Kibler rides limited all-star Longtusk Cub to victory, but in game three Kibler falls to a bunch of Aetherworks Marvel activations.

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Maybe the most important thing to happen during Round 6 is LSV's assertion that Temur Aetherworks is the best deck in Standard. Heading into the tournament, the build was just 2.73% of the Standard metagame, but at Pro Tour Kaladesh, it jumped all the way up to over 17%. As such, I would expect to see a massive increase in play for the deck moving forward, unless the deck is surprisingly horrible. Having 17% of the day one metagame gives it a huge leg up for making day two and showing up on camera, even with just an average performance. 

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The namesake card has already doubled in price, from $8 to $15, and I wouldn't be one bit surprised to see it hit $25 at some point this weekend, assuming it really is as good as many of the pros think. Maybe a more interesting question is what other cards from the deck could see a price jump; the options are fairly limited. A lot of the deck is commons and uncommons, and the other rares and mythics are either Eldrazi, Kozilek's Return, or lands. While I could imagine Emrakul, the Promise End and Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger getting a slight bump (especially Emrakul, the Promise End which has more demand across archetypes), I'm not sure how much they can increase. Going from $15 to $20, or $20 to $25 is possible, but since these cards are already at peak supply, doubling up to $40 seems exceedingly unlikely. On the other hand, if you want to go really deep, I can see an argument that if Temur Aetherworks becomes the best deck in Standard, control decks will get better because counterspells are the natural enemy of the all-in combo deck. That brings us back around to Torrential Gearhulk being a winner yet again. 

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As for back up features, we have our first Donivan Bane (Dovin Baan) sighting out of Jeskai Control. While this probably isn't enough to get excited about the planeswalker, it does mean that Dovin Baan has shown up about x1000 times more than Chandra, Torch of Defiance or Nissa, Vital Force, which were heavily hyped during spoiler season. At this point, I'm pretty comfortable declaring the Kaladesh planeswalkers day one losers (with the possible exception of Dovin Baan). The format is just incredibly hostile for the card type. Even if you can figure out a way to dodge the vehicles, you have a ton of decks that are looking to kill you on turn four, either with Electrostatic Pummeler, Prized Amalgam, Toolcraft Exemplar, or Aetherworks Marvel, which means tapping out for a five-drop is a tough sell in our current Standard format. While there's a chance these cards rebound in the future because they are powerful on their face, we might be waiting until Aether Revolt for Chandra and Nissa to get their chance to truly shine in Standard.

For our Round 6 deck tech, we finally get confirmation on Raphael Levy's UR Emerge deck. We were only three non-land cards off with our guestimate:

Round 7

Round 7 begins with Reid Duke on RW Vehicles against one of the most innovative decks we've seen on day one of Pro Tour KaladeshJeskai Controlin the hands of Carlos Romao. While the RW Vehicles list looks fairly stock, the Jeskai Control list looks to be built to fight against the aggressive metagame in Kaladesh Standard, with a lot of instants designed to kill attacking creatures. Unfortunately, Dovin Baan, one of the key cards in the Jeskai Control list, looks horrible in the matchup, coming in, +1'ing on a random creature, and then immediately dying to a four-powered Smuggler's Copter. Oddly, we were just talking about the problems with playing planeswalkers in a vehicles format, and the very next feature match gives us a shining example. 

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If the match between Duke and Romano is representative of the match up, Jeskai Control doesn't seem to stand a chance. In both games, the deck died almost immediately to a flurry of vehicles and aggressive creatures. In fact, during game two Romano had Blessed Alliance, Radiant Flames, and Fumigate, and still died on turn six to Gideon, Ally of Zendikar and Fleetwheel Cruiser. There are a ton of angles of attack in our current Standard; a lot of these decks are killing extremely quickly and in very different ways, which makes control challenging. 

By now, we are getting to the point in the tournament where there really aren't too many new decks to talk about, and so far we've spent most of the night talking about various winners, so let's change pace for a minute and talk about some of the decks that have been popular over the first couple weeks of Kaladesh Standard, but seem to have missed the mark for the Pro Tour. 

  • Even though control has been more popular than expected, UW Control (18th most-played deck at Pro Tour Kaladesh), the default build heading into the Pro Tour, hasn't really been a major part of the Pro Tour field. Instead, players have been going with Jeskai or even Grixis rather than UW. 
  • Zombies hasn't really shown up, and while Zombies weren't a huge part of the pre-Pro Tour Kaladesh metagame, they were present. It seems likely that their disappearance on Magic's biggest stage will be a major setback for the tribe, and more and more players will turn towards energy decks. 
  • GW Aggro (8th most-played deck heading into Pro Tour Kaladesh, 13th most-played at Pro Tour Kaladesh) was one of the big decks on week one of Kaladesh Standard, and has continued to hang around the second tier of the format. For Pro Tour Kaladesh, it has been deemed a poor choice by the all pro field and will likely fall behind GR Energy as the green-based aggro deck of choice moving forward. 
  • As far as cards, the old guard green creatures are nowhere to be found. In fact, through four matches of Standard, I don't think I've seen a single copy of Sylvan Advocate and very few Tireless Trackers. It wasn't that long ago that this package was the foundation to multiple decks, and now they are nowhere to be found. 
  • The same holds true for Spell Queller (and the rest of the Spirit tribe), Reflector Mage, Archangel Avacyn, and white cards in general. Basically, Kaladesh has flipped the entire format on its head, and many of the cards that were absolutely dominating the format only a month ago are nowhere to be found.

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As for back-up feature matches, we spend most of our time watching a GB Delirium mirror between two 6-0 players. While it's not really surprising to see the deck doing well, thanks to Verdurous Gearhulk, the decks are much more aggressive than they were in the past. Probably the most interesting card to show up in the match was Gonti, Lord of Luxury, likely from the sideboard, but it's hard to know for sure because we didn't get to see the first game of the match. Gonti seems like interesting tech for slower, creature-based matchups. Deathtouch allows it to block anything, and stealing something from your opponent's library offers another source of card advantage to swing a close match. 

For our in-between round deck tech, we're treated to Blue-White Spirits by Christian Calcano:

Round 8

Round 8 starts with a couple of decks we've seen several times before, GB Delirium versus Temur Aetherworks. Considering that these two decks are the most played in the entire tournament, we should probably get used to watching the matchup. Last week on the podcast, one of the questions I asked was "could the pros figure out the Aetherworks Marvel deck?" My impression of the deck is that when it's good it's the best deck in the format. I mean, casting an Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger or Emrakul, the Promised End on turn four is about as close to unbeatable as it gets in Standard. On the other hand, when the deck is bad, it does literal nothing, so the biggest question surrounding the deck is whether or not it could become consistent. The answer is sort of, but in an very unexpected way. 

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As weird as it sounds, the pros have found that Contingency Plana functional reprint of Taigam's Scheminga card most famous for being constantly mispronounced by me on Against the Odds, is the solution. Normally, cards like Contingency Plan are horrible because you spend a card and don't get any real value. But in Temur Aetherworks, you don't really care how bad your cards are. If you can get a turn four Eldrazi, you'll make up for the bad cards played over the first three turns. It gets you five cards deeper to find your Aetherworks Marvel, and then once you have an Aetherworks Marvel, Contingency Plan can stack the library to make sure you hit Eldrazi (which is important, because without help, Aetherworks Marvel only has a 60% chance of hitting an Eldrazi titan). Oh, and it also bins Kozilek's Return for you as well.

As for the matchup itself, it seems like Temur Aetherworks is favored against GB Delirium, but even with Contingency Plan there's still a lot of inconsistency in the deck. And that seems to be the story of day one of Pro Tour Kaladesh. We have multiple decks that are looking to essentially (or literally) kill on turn four. Then we have a bunch of decks that are looking to kill with creatures on turn five and hoping they can either disrupt the turn four decks just a little bit, or that the decks stumble over themselves. Then there are a few diehards that are looking to fight the good fight with control, hopefully beating up on the combo decks and possibly survive the creature-based vehicles decks every once in a while. 

This said, things are likely to change tomorrow. The field will narrow, and we'll see what decks rise to the top. But for now, at the end of day one, my bet would be we have multiple Aetherworks Marvel decks, one or two GB Delirium decks, a control deck (quite possibly Shota's Grixis Control list), probably an aggro deck of some kind, and maybe one odd-ball (hopefully the UR Dynavolt Tower Spells deck) deck in the Top 8. Regardless, we'll know more tomorrow, and more still on Sunday when we'll crown our newest Pro Tour champion!


Anyway, that's all for today. While the first day of Pro Tour Kaladesh didn't contain a ton of major surprises, it did reveal a very aggressive format with a lot of extremely powerful, linear decks. So what were your observations of the first day of Pro Tour Kaladesh? Which deck from day one was your favorite? What do you think will show up in the Top 8 on Sunday? Did anything else stick out to you? Let me know in the comments, and we'll be back again tomorrow to do it again for day two!

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